The Miami Heat will not have a player representing the franchise in the All-Star game for the first time since Dwyane Wade’s rookie season back in 2004.
Center Hassan Whiteside, who has led the league in rebounding for most of the season and has posted 29 double-doubles (tied for fifth-most in the league), was not among the seven Eastern Conference reserves selected by the league’s coaches, who were asked to vote for seven players in their respective conferences – two guards, three frontcourt players and two additional players at either position group. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team.
In fact no natural center was named to the East’s squad with Dwight Howard of Atlanta, Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia rookie Joel Embiid also being left off the team.
Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Indiana’s Paul George were the three frontcourt players selected by the coaches along with guards Kyle Lowry of Toronto, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s John Wall and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who was the only first time selection on the list of reserves in the East. The East’s starters, previously announced, are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
“I think they have too many little guys, but all those guys are having All-Star years,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said of the East’s squad.
None of TNT’s analysts – Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal or Kenny Smith – mentioned Whiteside as an All-Star snub. Barkley thought Embiid deserved to make the team, but made no mention of any other centers in the East.
The Western Conference reserves included three centers in Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Memphis’ Marc Gasol. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, and Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were also named to the team. The West starters include former league MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant of the Warriors, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, the Houston’s James Harden, and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.
There were several noteable long-time All-Star selections left off both squads including Wade, who had been selected to 12 consecutive All-Star games with the Heat prior to leaving for Chicago last summer. He was left off the team along with New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Whiteside, who led the league in blocks last season, is averaging 16.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and two blocks a game this season. He was leading the league in rebounds before a sprained right ankle forced him out of action in Wednesday’s win at Brooklyn. He had just one rebound in the game and fell behind Jordan (14.0) for the league lead.
Whiteside, who toiled in the D-League and overseas before he landed a spot with the Heat in the middle of the 2014-15 season and then signed a four-year, $98 million deal this summer, has been outspoken in the past that he’s been overlooked by both fans and others in the league.
“You put my numbers up and just don’t put a face up there I feel like the (voting) numbers would be different,” Whiteside said two weeks ago before he placed 11th in the fan vote, eighth in the media vote and 14th in the player polling, which were combined to select the All-Star starters.
“Just my honest opinion,” he continued. “I feel like if you put a blackout screen and just put my numbers up there people (would say), ‘Oh, man, how is he not an All-Star?’ I feel like that’s what it is. Who likes who.”
Based on efficiency, where Whiteside ranks 15th in the league (24.2), there were only two other players who posted better numbers than Whiteside and also did not make the All-Star team: Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns (27.2) and the Clippers’ Paul (25.4).
To his detriment, Whiteside has been criticized by his coach and others this season for not putting forth consistent effort night to night. He’s been benched a couple times because of it.
Also not helping Whiteside’s cause: the Heat’s 16-30 record. No team in the East below the ninth seed had a player named to the All-Star squad.
The Kings (18-27) and Pelicans (18-28) were the two worst teams in the West to earn representation in the game, which will be played Sunday Feb. 19 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Friday’s game: Heat at Bulls
When/where: 8 p.m., United Center, Chicago
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish)
Series: Bulls lead 57-48
Scouting report: Whiteside (ankle) is questionable for the Heat, which lost the first two meetings 98-95 in Miami and 105-100 in Chicago. The Bulls have been pointing fingers at each other of late with Wade and Butler both criticizing their teammates for not playing hard every night.